Step-by-Step: Amazon's innovation methodology laid bare. This is how they do it.

Amazon has continued to maintain its start-up mindset and innovate despite growing into a large conglomerate. Here’s how.

Amazon’s approach to pitching an idea is a disciplined process to ensure results. Although it sounds counter-initiative, it works backwards from the customer which forces a potential idea to go through the harshest lens: is this something that customers want and will pay for?

Throughout this process, questions that need to be answered include:
  • Who is the customer?
  • What is the customer problem or opportunity?
  • Is the most important customer benefit clear?
  • How do you know what customers need or want?
  • What does the customer experience look like?
To develop a pitch, Amazonians are expected to:

Write a press release

The press release is great, because it forces decisions by putting you into the shoes of your customer and ensuring market fit.

Being a 1-page document, it the writer must explain the idea quickly and concisely with a sharp focus on the customer. If it is difficult to explain, the benefits aren’t clear and the idea doesn’t excite the customer, it’s a good indicator that the idea is a dud.

Use plenty of visuals: sometimes the best explanations consist of 1 or 2 simple, but powerful images.

The greatest benefit of a press release is that it is cheap and allows idea iteration on a rapid scale. At the end, it should be easy to determine whether an idea needs to be further iterated, pivoted, or killed.

Write an FAQ

Building on the press release, this part helps you to anticipate questions that customers and stakeholders may have.

You should share your press release early to help collate questions, and don’t shy away from the hard ones.

Some sample questions include:
  • [message]
    • ##paper-plane## External questions
      • What are you launching today?
        ● What is the customer problem or opportunity?
        ● Who is the customer?
        ● Why should a customer use the product?
        ● What is the primary customer benefit?
        ● How do you know what your customers need or want?
        ● What does the customer experience look like?
        ● How does this product relate to and/or work with other products?
        ● What would your customers most like in the product?
    • ##home## Internal questions
      • ● What do you want someone sitting across the table at lunch saying about your product?
        ● Who is the target customer for your product?
        ● What will customers be most disappointed with in your product?
        ● Why do you believe the first release will be successful?
        ● What use cases would customers not want to move to your product, and why?
        ● What % of the market segment do these use cases comprise?
        ● Are we currently making any decisions that are irreversible?
        ● What is your plan to make customers a glowing public reference of your service?
        ● Will customers interact with your new service/feature through a user interface?

Write the user manual

The user manual is the next logical step and describes how a customer will use the product. It should also contain mock ups of the user experience – these do not need to be complicated, and in many cases involves paper and pen.

And next...

Once these are written and revised, it is sent up the chain for review. If approved, then the idea owner is empowered to execute. Amazon realises that end-to-end ownership of an idea is a powerful motivator, and the owner can form small ‘2-pizza’ teams drawn on from multiple departments to make the idea a reality.

Amazon’s ability to be innovative is not a random draw of luck: it is a repeatable, disciplined approach which empowers people to become innovators and entrepreneurs with the support of Amazon’s resources and talent.



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K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Step-by-Step: Amazon's innovation methodology laid bare. This is how they do it.
Step-by-Step: Amazon's innovation methodology laid bare. This is how they do it.
Amazon has continued to maintain its start-up mindset and innovate despite growing into a large conglomerate. Here’s how.
K Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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